March Madness Fitness Tips

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March Madness Fitness Tips  by Ken Hunt


Believe it or not, there are a few other shows to watch on TV besides, GLEE, American Idol and the Bridezillas.  If you like sports and even if you don’t, you might be noticing an overwhelming amount of basketballs games on TV this time of year.  …  It’s time for March Madness! Yes, it’s about that time when your boss walks by your desk and you act as if you’re actually working, but we all know you’re really checking your online bracket to see if your team advanced to the next round and obsessively checking the live ESPN stream of the game. Whether you’re playing with your friends, family, co-workers, or joining an online tournament, keeping up with the tournament might be taking up a lot of your time and keeping you from the gym

But even if you are glued to the flat screen you can avoid being a couch potato throughout the tourney.  Instead of just watching these college players jump, shoot and run up and down the court, why don’t you get active and do the same. Of course you can’t play a full game of basketball in your living room, but here are some basketball related exercises to help you stay just as active as the team you’re rooting for.

March Madness Exercises

  • Calf Raise- Find a raised step and stand on it with your heel and arch hanging off the back of the step.  Keep just the ball of your foot and toes on the step. Raise up on your toes as high as you can in a slow and controlled manner. Slowly return to your original position. Repeat 3-4 sets of 15 to 20 repetitions. Helps develop your calve muscles and can be done with or without weights. This exercise aids in helping you increase your vertical jumping ability.
  • Twist Crunch- Flex and twist waist to raise upper torso off surface to one side. Return until back of shoulders return to surface. Repeat to opposite side alternating twists. Repeat 3-4 sets of 20 repetitions. Helps with developing abs. This exercise will help strength your core and will help with giving you better overall posture.
  • Squatting- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Bend the knees and lower into a squat. Stop when your knees are at 90-degree angles or before you lose the natural arch of your back. Then fully extend the legs until you’re back to standing position. Repeat for 3-4 sets of 10-15 repetitions .Helps train several muscles groups, thighs, buttocks, hamstrings and hips. This exercise is considered one of the best and vital workouts to increase overall strength and size.
  • Jumping Rope– Hold an end of the rope in each hand. Position the rope behind you on the ground. Raise your arms up and turn the rope over your head bringing it down in front of you. When it reaches the ground, jump over it. Not only is this a great cardiovascular exercise, but it is excellent if you are trying to increase the muscle mass in your calves. This exercise will help increase your stamina and speed.
  • Jump Squats- Stand with your feet at least hip width apart and place your weight on your heels with your toes pointed forward. Bend your knees and lean forward slightly to keep your knees over your ankles. Lower your upper body to a slight squatting position and push through your heels. Shift your weight to the balls of your feet as your come to a standing position and rise up on your toes. Lift up hard with an explosive movement, and as your weight comes onto your toes, use your calf muscles to push your feet off the floor and get as much height as possible. Repeat 3-4 sets of 10 repetitions. Helps build explosive strength, speed, and powerful muscle mass for your entire lower body. This exercise can help increase your squat weight by 20% and increases your vertical jump.

So what do to after all that physical exertion? Well if you have worked up an appetite don’t let all that good effort go to waste.  Sure you can have a few snacks, but keep it healthy.  Here are some suggestions

  • Popcorn. It’s not just for the movie theater anymore. In fact, you’re better off skipping it at the movie theater. A bucket of oil-popped movie theater popcorn can contain as much fat as three to five double cheeseburgers. But air-popped popcorn is a pretty benign treat. Three cups of popcorn have just 93 calories and 1.5 grams of fat. Air-popped popcorn doesn’t have much nutritive value outside of the energy you may get from the calories and some dietary fiber, but it can satisfy your munchies without getting you too far off the diet path. The best popcorn comes from your own hot-air popper—offering no additional fat or salt, unless you add it later. If you’re going for microwave convenience, make sure you read the label carefully. Even some of the “healthy” brands contain a fair amount of fat and salt. And many microwave brands contain perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which has been linked to cancer. You might be better off making your own microwave popcorn. Just put a 1/4 cup of popcorn into a brown lunch bag, fold the top over tightly, and microwave at your usual popcorn setting. Try to avoid salt and butter. Instead, enjoy your favorite herbs, or a squeeze of lemon juice with some garlic powder or cayenne pepper.
  • Bean dip. Beans are a great source of protein and fiber and don’t have tons of calories. One cup of canned pintos only has 206 calories; it also has 12 grams of protein and 11 grams of fiber—almost half of your recommended daily allowance. And beans are incredibly filling. You can make your own dips, hot or cold, by food-processing canned black or pinto beans (my favorites are the ones canned with jalapeños). Add water to create your desired consistency, or you can also use fat-free refried beans
  • .Salsa. This is the perfect mix of tomatoes, onions, and peppers. And the great thing is that salsa is so low in calories and so high in fiber, you can basically eat it by the cupful and not gain weight. If you buy it at the store though, watch out for the salt content—that’s the secret ingredient in most canned and jarred salsas.
  • Crisp bread crackers. These crunchy treats (including Wasa and Rykrisp brands) have around 30 calories a cracker (depending on the brand, flavor, and style) and a couple of grams of fiber in each one. For the Top Chef in you, they make great bases for some healthy ingredients from your refrigerator. Try a dollop of fat-free cottage cheese with a dash of hot sauce; a slice of turkey breast and roasted red pepper; a “schemer” of hummus and a couple of pitted olives; or a slice of tomato and a fresh basil leaf with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar
  • Pistachios. Pistachios are a great heart-healthy snack full of antioxidants, fiber, and unsaturated fats (the good kind). A 1/2-cup serving (with the shells, assuming you don’t eat them) only has 170 calories, with 6 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber; however, that serving also has 14 grams of fat, so don’t go nuts chowing down on a whole bag
  • . Edamame. The Japanese have one of the healthiest diets in the world and soybeans are a great staple of that diet. Edamame, the steamed or boiled soybean pods, contain all the essential amino acids, many essential fatty acids, and soy isoflavones. And a 1/2 cup of beans only contains 100 calories, 3 grams of fat, and 9 grams of carbs, with 8 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber.
  • Mini-pizzas. Forget the frozen food section. Anyone with a toaster oven or a broiler pan can be his or her own Mama  Just take half of a whole wheat English muffin (67 calories; 2 grams of fiber), add a little tomato sauce or low-sodium pizza or spaghetti sauce and a sprinkle of low-fat or nonfat mozzarella cheese, and voilà—tasty and healthy pizza!
  • Pita chips and hummus. Now you can open a Greek taverna in your living room. To make chips, cut around the edge of the pita with a small paring knife, so you have two discs. Then with a knife or pizza cutter, cut the discs into eighths or smaller chip-size pieces. Arrange the pieces on an aluminum-foil-covered cookie sheet, lightly spray with some olive oil cooking spray, and sprinkle with a little salt or low-fat Parmesan cheese or your favorite dried herbs. Cook in the oven or toaster oven until lightly browned and crispy and serve with your favorite hummus or dip recipe
  • Relish tray. Some of my favorite snacks are pickled or brined anything—cucumbers, cauliflower, peppers, artichoke hearts, carrots, okra, baby corn,  cocktail onions, olives, sauerkraut,  . .even hard-boiled eggs! Extremely low in calories, a plate full of pickled veggies on the coffee table is great for snacking
  • Deviled eggs. Eggs, having once been considered a scourge of the heart-healthy diet, are now getting a better rap what’s indisputable is the health value of the whites. If you take the yolks out of the equation, the egg whites can prove to be small, healthy, high-protein delivery systems suitable for all kinds of nutritious creamy fillings. Try mixing some nonfat cottage cheese with your favorite mix of mustard, curry powder, garlic, paprika, pepper, salt, or other spices and blending or food-processing until creamy. Spoon or pipe the mixture into the egg whites where the yolks used to be and you’ll have a high-protein snack without the fat and cholesterol. You can also use the empty egg whites as scoops for your favorite healthy dip or salsa.

So there are… you have the perfect recipe for keeping fit and keeping satisfied while watching your favorite team run down the court.  Have fun and enjoy the Madness.


Ken Hunt is an AFI-certified trainer and owner of Steel Gym in New York City. Ken’s articles have been featured in The New York Times, Compete, Horizon Barcelona, LaCosmopolatina, Dignity, Men's Fitness, Genre, HX, Stonewall News and EXIT South Africa, and he’s a frequent guest on Sirius OutQ Radio. Ken also travels the country lecturing on physical fitness and sharing his work-out secrets. He is currently finishing his new book “ The Hunt for Fitness,” working an a new cable TV project. Steel Gym has been named one of the top 5 gyms in the U.S. by Muscle and Fitness Magazine. Steel is also ranked as the "#1 Gym in New York" by the American Fitness Institute for "cost, cleanliness, equipment and service," and has been called "the last real gym left in New York" by famed bodybuilder Victor Martinez. For the second year in a row Steel was awarded both the Talk Of The Town Award for outstanding customer service, and received the New York Award for Physical Fitness. The gym is located at 146 W. 23rd St, New York, NY 212.352.9876 Steel Gym has been named one of the top 5 gyms in the U.S. by Muscle and Fitness Magazine. Steel is also ranked as the "#1 Gym in New York" by the American Fitness Institute for "cost, cleanliness, equipment and service," and has been called "the last real gym left in New York" by famed bodybuilder Victor Martinez. For the second year in a row Steel was awarded both the Talk Of The Town Award for outstanding customer service, and received the New York Award for Physical Fitness. Steel Gym is located at 146 W. 23rd St, New York, NY

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